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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Special Topics > Physical Health
      Category : Health Centers > Exercise and Fitness

Physical Health

Alternate Names : Exercise

Physical activity is any motor activity of the body that burns calories. Sports, planned exercise, household chores, yard work, and work-related tasks are all forms of physical activity.

What is the information for this topic?

Physical activity is an excellent way to improve health. It increases the heart rate and improves overall physical fitness. People who engage in physical activity are less likely to get many serious diseases. An inactive lifestyle doubles the risk of having a heart attack. Regular physical activity along with a healthy diet is the best way to manage weight.

Benefits of physical activity

People who get enjoyable, regular physical activity can improve their overall quality of life. Physical activity can lower a person's risk for the following disorders:

  • back pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • heart attack and stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • osteoporosis
  • type 2 diabetes
  • Following are some other benefits of regular physical activity:

  • less stress
  • more ability to move and function with aging
  • more energy
  • more self-confidence and increased feelings of well being
  • Planning physical activity

    In general, the National Institutes of Health, also called NIH, recommends 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week. This should be combined with muscle strengthening and stretching at least twice a week. If a person can't follow those recommendations, the next best thing is 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activities a day, at least five times a week. NIH also has physical activity guidelines for people who are overweight or obese.

    Aerobic exercise is any activity that makes a person breathe hard while using the large muscle groups at a regular, even pace. This strengthens the heart and makes it work more efficiently. Aerobic exercises use more calories than other types of activities. For this reason, they can promote weight loss. Examples of aerobic activities are as follows:

  • bicycling
  • brisk walking
  • cross-country or downhill skiing
  • jogging
  • swimming or rowing
  • using aerobic equipment, such as a treadmill or rowing machine
  • Moderate-intensity exercise includes activities that are part of daily life. They can be done in short sessions throughout the day. For example, a person may garden for 10 minutes, then play badminton with the children for 12 minutes. Later in the day, he or she may spend 8 minutes vigorously vacuuming the house. Altogether, the person has spent 30 minutes doing moderate-intensity activity that day. Other moderate-intensity activities are as follows.

  • Park the car farther away from a mall or office and walk the rest of the way.
  • Rake leaves.
  • Take a short walk around the block.
  • Take an activity break by getting up and moving around.
  • Use the stairs, not the elevator.
  • A person who has been inactive for a long time should check with the healthcare provider before starting a physical activity program. The person should start with less strenuous activity, such as walking a short distance at a comfortable pace. The speed, intensity, and length of the activity can then be slowly increased.

    The talk test is a way to keep track of the intensity of a physical activity. A person should comfortably be able to carry on a conversation while exercising. If he or she is too winded to complete a sentence or gasps for air every few words, the pace is too fast. The person should slow down to a more comfortable speed.

    Maintaining physical activity

    Over half of the people who begin an activity program drop out within 6 months. Many quit within the first month. People are more likely to make physical activity a regular part of their lives if they take these steps.

  • Make exercise a fun activity.
  • Vary the activities.
  • Choose activities that easily fit into the daily schedule.
  • Exercise with a partner or group.
  • Exercise in safe, attractive neighborhoods and parks or on trails.
  • Start slowly to avoid injury or burnout.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are right for the activity.
  • Include physical activity in each day's routine.
  • Set specific goals.
  • Keep track of progress.
  • Learn from setbacks.
  • Author: Minot Cleveland, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/02/01

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